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2 November 1968
IAN: MYSTIQUE IS SO IMPORTANT
Jethro Tull are the enfants terrible of the British Blues scene — impossible to label neatly and bundle into one of the obvious categories
At times they seem to be playing jazz, at others it's modern electric blues and yet again it's like something of a 1930s 78.
Good as Mick Abrahams gtr., vcls, Glenn Cornick (bass gtr) and Clive Bunker (drs) are, it is Ian Anderson (flute, harmonica, vcls) who both dominates the group musically and is already becoming legendary as 'a character'.
Interviewing Ian can be an unsettling experience. Once you learn to spot the send-up, there are still the flashes of extreme modesty, the refusal to take himself seriously and the unexpected pronouncements.
An example of the latter:
"The romantic side of pop music is going away and I'm not sure it's a good thing. Today you are supposed to chat to the audience so they think: 'He's just an ordinary bloke, there's nothing special about him.'
"Of course, if you use your head a bit you can come across as interesting, from a character point of view. I feel the mystique of pop music is important, yet everybody is fighting to destroy it at the moment. Just as the hippies destroyed the romanticism in sex — which I think is a shame."
Roland Kirk's name is invariably mentioned when Ian's flute playing is under discussion. I asked if he was a particular admirer of Kirk's.
"People kept saying it to me so I went to hear Kirk and found I was already making a similar noise," says Ian. "I stopped listening again but I suppose something has rubbed off on me.
"I started out as a singer and when the others were playing I found I was just gazing round the lofty halls. I thought I'd like to be playing something and moving round too, so I got hold of the flute and harmonica and bluffed my way through.
"The great thing is to pick up something and mess about with it, it helps new ideas to come up. That's why I am now playing about on mandolin — it gives you a whole new approach.
"I don't really play the flute — what I do is what I would do if I was singing or playing the guitar. And I can only play in four keys. Anyway, all flutes sound the same to an audience whether it is marvellous or a joke."
Ian believes the current fuss over blues is a little late.
"The whole Blues scene, with a capital B, is a bit dated now," he says. "Eighteen months ago people went to see a blues group and thought of themselves as being very different from those going to see Arthur Brown or the Nice. Now it's all the same scene. You can put us, the Nice, Aynsley Dunbar and an out-and-out pop group on the bill and the same people will come to see us all."
Ian obviously sees nothing wrong in that and believes that communicating with an audience is important.
"Satisfaction is complementary between musician and audience," he says. "It may mean you have to compromise to get audience reaction, and at times it doesn't work, but an audience has come to see you and you must make out you are enjoying yourself even on the worst nights.
"It's a bad thing when groups are playing for themselves or believes the audience is not going to understand what they are playing. I always have the idea that these people have come to see us and paid money to do it — and I would be pretty sick if I had wasted five bob."
Ian also hates being labelled.
"The people who invent all these categories and labels are probably the ones who believe that if you are white you can't sing or play blues," he says. "In that case we are not a blues group — although I think we are.
"But then my ideas on blues may not be other people's. I think what the Nice plays, and what Roland Kirk plays, is all blues-influenced."
Of Jethro Tull, Ian says:
"Everybody goes their own way. There is no big get-together scene. It's all give and take. Some of my ideas are in the drum solo on the album and some of the drummer's ideas are in the melody of the tune. At the right moment it works out."
* * *
[album review, p.14]
JETHRO TULL: This Was (Island)
The eagerly awaited debut album by the group which was the sensation of the Sunbury Festival is no disappointment. Drawing on a variety of inspirations, the four-man group contrive to be just about the most exciting new thing to happen to the British scene, pop and blues.
* * *
['blind' review of 'My Sunday Feeling' by American jazz musician Gary Burton, p.10]
"That was weird. There were those occasional touches of the jazz tradition, like the ending whhich was more or less an old big band lick. The performance got stronger as it went along, and it may not be the group's best material.
"I would think they've had some jazz experience. I know most of the US groups have this strong jazz streak. Al Kooper, the organist, is a major purveyor of this, and almost every American group attempts jazz phrasing.
"I just don't know what to make of it because the jazz they're interested in and talking about is old-style jazz. I can see their interest in Indian, electronic, avant garde jazz, and even country music, but I don't see their interest in middle of the road jazz that the most mundane jazz groups would be playing.
"It used to kill me to hear rock groups trying to play extended improvisations. Then it annoyed me when they just droned on and on, although people like Eric Clapton seems to have a natural aptitude for those long lines."